Melbourne’s defensive tactics are once again under the rugby league microscope.
The ugly issue reared its head following their victory over South Sydney on Sunday, when NRL 360 highlighted a number of incidents.
League legend Phil Gould accused the Storm of coaching its players to run with raised elbows in order to intimidate defenders and win quick play-the-balls.
NRL 360 co-host Ben Ikin played devil’s advocate on Wednesday night as his colleagues Paul Kent and James Hooper ripped into Melbourne.
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“It is systematic. They’ve got a wrestling coach called John Donehue who has been there since day dot, that has instilled this in them,” Hooper said.
“As Phil Gould point out he saw them practising to do it in the warm-up.”
Retired Cronulla champion Luke Lewis had some success against the Storm during his career, most famously the 2016 grand final.
He admits he isn’t a fan of the wrestling tactics first introduced by Melbourne, but is resigned to the fact they are here to stay unless the NRL changes the laws of the game.
But he says there’s a way for opposition coaches to beat Melbourne’s wrestle without complaining about it in a post-match press conference.
And he says one 2019 NRL battler may have shown the perfect blueprint for getting around Storm’s tactics.
“I don’t like wrestling personally, that’s me. But that’s what the game is, that’s what Melbourne has brought into the game however many years ago,” Lewis said on NRL 360.
“Everyone else has bought into it, they just do it better than everyone else.
“There’s a way to beat Melbourne. There’s two teams I believe who showed the way to beat Melbourne this year.
“The Bulldogs earlier this year … they moved the ball, they completed high, and they got into (Melbourne’s) backrowers and three-men, which is their halfbacks and make then make tackles.
“There was two in tackle, they couldn’t wrestle, and it tired their big men out around the middle.
“Then (Canterbury) shifted to the other side and again they made the other half and their other backrower make tackles, and they couldn’t get in and wrestle the ruck.
“They played quick, and they troubled them. Manly did it, the Sharks do it really well.
“If you can move the ball on Melbourne and make their four-man – which is their backrower – and their halves make tackles, don’t fall in the trap of having their big men wrestle up the ruck.
“The other teams have got to start playing football against them.”